Top tips for top media coverage
Generating positive media coverage of your event is something you need to aim for, as it’s the most effective way of broadcasting our key messages:
- Vegans enjoy a wide variety of foods, including vegan versions of pretty much everything omnivores eat
- Veganism is easy to sustain
- Veganism is a rational lifestyle choice, not a diet fad
- Veganism benefits animals, the environment and health.
If the target audience for your event is the general public or schools, your local media will likely be more interested in covering it.
Prepare a media list
You're probably aware of many of your local media outlets and you can find their contact details on their websites. The Newspaper Society allows you to search for regional and local newspapers by area. It's very important that your publicity reaches the media outlet in good time, so plan ahead.
TV, radio and print media all work to different fixed deadlines. Features and articles need more preparation than news items. Today, the internet is arguably as influential as print and broadcast media, so do some research and send your release to local interest websites and bloggers too.
Check to see whether your local radio station has an online submission form for you to submit your event so it's listed on their website. Research all the ‘what’s on’ and ‘events' listing websites in your area.
If you are organising a large event - or if there's a strong news angle to your story - your regional independent and BBC TV news programme may be interested in covering the event. Call the station well ahead of time and ask for the programme’s ‘forward planning’ email address and submit details of your event. A few days before the event call to check the release was received and whether anyone is planning to attend.
Informing the press in advance is crucial if you want them to attend on the day. Monthly magazines will be working several months ahead (3-4 is not unusual); weekly newspapers will need several weeks’ notice; daily newspapers will benefit from at least a week’s notice or longer; and local radio and TV stations approximately a week's notice too.
If you want the press to attend and cover your event, you need to try and book your event in their diary listings. Journalists and editors book all future events into a central diary. If you wish to invite a local newspaper photographer to your event, you should call the newspaper and ask who keeps the photographer’s diary. This may be the photo editor, the picture desk or a journalist, depending on the size of the newspaper.
4-6 weeks before the event, send your media list a short press invitation so they can enter the event date in their diary listing. The invitation should include date, time, venue, contact details and short description of the event.
Send out your press release 1-2 weeks prior to your event. The press release is the journalist's introduction to a story and it needs to stand out from all the other news items that are being received by the news room all the time. Things that can make a press release stand out include:
- Facts and figures
- Unusual stories
- Human interest stories.
It's best to call your local media the day before the event to check they have the press release and to find out whether anyone plans to attend. This way you can re-send the release if it hasn’t been received and/or you can prepare your backup photographer(s) to be available on the day.
Be aware that most local and regional newspapers will no longer send a journalist out to an event unless it is very high profile ‘hard news’. Many newspapers have very few staff photographers and it may be best for you to arrange to take your own photographs and send them to the newspaper. Most local radio stations will prefer a telephone interview or will invite you into the studio rather than send someone along.
Tips for writing a press release
- Try to keep to one side of A4. Include the word IMMEDIATE and the date of the release at the top. Only use an embargo (a request not to publish until a certain date) if the item is very time sensitive such as the release of new research or information to be announced at a press conference
- The title and first paragraph should be concise, relevant and capture the reader’s attention, answering all of the following questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Don’t worry about trying to write a clever headline - that is the journalist’s and editor’s job. The title of your release just needs to describe what the release is about as clearly and concisely as possible
- Draft a snappy quote to include in the release. This can be your own or ideally from someone who is involved in the event itself. Journalists will often lift a quote from a press release and use it in their articles – especially if they are unable to attend the event themselves
- Write 'Ends' at the end of the release. Underneath provide the contact details of the person the press can contact about the release. Provide as many ways of contact as possible: email, landline, mobile. Contact details for the public to find out about an event should be given in the body of the press release
- A 'Note to Editors' after the main text can expand on information in the body of the release. The background of your group, the history of the event, the availability of photographs of past events might all be included in this section.
The media love speaking to people so make sure someone on your team is prepared to speak to the journalist. If you are putting forward another organiser make sure that they are fully briefed about the reasons behind the event. Remember that the journalist will come along to your event to cover a positive news story - but if veganism has recently received some bad publicity the journalist may ask you about it.
Be aware that many local and regional newspapers no longer send out journalists to cover stories on a regular basis. Most events will be covered by a photographer (or no-one at all) and the journalist will write the story from the press release, emails and telephone interviews with the organiser(s).
Media interviews - when being interviewed, keep your answers simple and to the point. Be enthusiastic and explain why the event has been organised and what you hope people attending will get out of it. The journalist will also probably want to speak to someone attending the event. If your event is for school children, you should let teachers know that the press have been invited.
Case studies - do you have contacts who would be prepared to speak to the press about their experience and transition to veganism?
Photographs - a good photograph is a superb way of generating media coverage. If the media is interested in a story they might send a photographer to cover the event; however, staff photographers are increasingly in short supply and many local and regional newspapers now use reader-generated images i.e. potentially YOUR image. Be prepared to take some photographs yourself. Taking some good photographs on the day and sending them to the local newspaper with a good caption may result in them running the story after the event. Try to find someone you know who is a keen photographer and who has good photographic equipment and ask them to produce high resolution JPGs (minimum 300dpi). Low resolution JPGs will be fine for your own websites or to send to most other websites and bloggers.
After the event
Email any journalists that came along to the event thanking them for attending and/or for any subsequent successful coverage. A local journalist is always a useful contact, so cultivate such relationships, allowing you to contact them again in the future.